Sunday, April 4, 2010

Showing up for church regularly is what it takes for UUs to benefit.

In my continued reading of Kate Tweedie Erslev's book, Full Circle: Fifteen Ways To Grow Lifelong UUs, I find in Chapter 3 the suggestion that the value of attending regular church services should be shared.

Erslev writes on page 19:

"It helps to have explicit recommendations about such issues as attendance and pledging in order to make newcomers fell more comfortable. Joining a UU congregation is not the same as joining the Sierra Club or the Brownies."

She goes on to write, "We need to welcome and encourage our members to partake of the community at least three times a month in order to reap the full benefits of religious community,"

Having been raised a Roman Catholic I was taught to miss Mass on Sunday was a mortal sin and if I died with a mortal sin on my soul I would go to hell. On top of that there were Holy days of obligation which carried the same sanction. Attending church on Sunday and Holy days of obligation was taken very, very, very seriously with the expectation that failure to participate was damning one's soul to hell.

I note that Erslev doesn't go that far, but she does seem to imply that failure to attend regularly makes it impossible for a person to strenghten and enjoy the benefits of one's Unitarian Universalist faith.

I buy that. This makes it very important that Sunday services are meaningful, inspiring, informative, soulful, joyful, and worth coming to.

Should a UU go to services he/she finds boring, disspiriting, annoying, irritating, dismissive, plodding, boring?

No. Emerson said as much in his famous sermon about the deadness of some UU services. I have sat through quite a few wondering why the preacher was preaching what he was preaching. It seemed to be intellectual masturbation to me. I looked around and people's eyes were politely glazed over and I was struck with how "nice" every thing was but deader than a doornail.

Unitarian Universalism being based on congregational polity provides the opportunity for people to get involved. If you find the services boring or iriitating or dead get involved in the worship committee, get involved in the choir, speak to the minister. Try to improve things before you stop going.

Not all services will always be to everyone's liking so patience, tolerance of frustraton and displeasure is part of being a UU. We shouldn't just quit going to church because we don't feel entertained. We need to give things a chance, to try to positively influence the situation for a period of time, but if then things still are dead for you, look elsewhere for you spiritual sustenance.

I do think Erslev is right though about the need to attend regularly. Church is about relationships and they can't exist and develop in abstenia. I think Woody Allen had it right when he said, "80% of success in life is due to showing up."

At the Brockport Unitarian Universalist Fellowship which started holding services last September monthly and in December twice a month we have about 25 people who attend regularly with another 40 to 50 who have visited. The question I struggle with is what does it take to turn a visitor into a regular attender? We have yet to have charter Sunday. We are hoping to have 30 people willing to sign the book before we hold it. Hopefully, it will happen in the fall. If any one has any experience in starting a church from scratch who will share your story please leave a comment or send me an email at david@davidgmarkham.com.

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